Mask mandate and use efficacy in state-level COVID-19 containment

Abstract
Background: Containment of the COVID-19 pandemic requires evidence-based strategies to reduce transmission. Because COVID-19 can spread via respired droplets, many states have mandated mask use in public settings. Randomized control trials have not clearly demonstrated mask efficacy against respiratory viruses, and observational studies conflict on whether mask use predicts lower infection rates. We hypothesized that statewide mask mandates and mask use are associated with lower COVID-19 case growth rates in the United States.
Methods: We calculated total COVID-19 case growth and mask use for the continental United States with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. We estimated post mask mandate case growth in non-mandate states using median issuance dates of neighboring states with mandates. Results: Case growth was not significantly different between mandate and non-mandate states at low or high transmission rates, and surges were equivocal. Mask use predicted lower case growth at low, but not high transmission rates. Growth rates were comparable between states in the first and last mask use quintiles adjusted for normalized total cases early in the pandemic and unadjusted after peak Fall-Winter infections. Mask use did not predict Summer 2020 case growth for non-Northeast states or Fall-Winter 2020 growth for all continental states.
Conclusions: Mask mandates and use are not associated with slower state-level COVID-19 spread during COVID 19 growth surges. Containment requires future research and implementation of existing efficacious strategies.

Medrxiv.org

Shutdowns Were a Disaster [with comment by Paul]

The Wall Street Journal notes that, as the coronavirus disappears in the rear-view mirror, two Americas are emerging:

The unemployment rate in April nationwide was 6.1%, but this obscures giant variations in the states. With some exceptions, those run by Democrats such as California (8.3%) and New York (8.2%) continued to suffer significantly higher unemployment than those led by Republicans such as South Dakota (2.8%) and Montana (3.7%).

It’s rare to see differences that are so stark based on party control in states. But the current partisan differences reflect different policy choices over the length and severity of pandemic lockdowns and now government benefits such as jobless insurance.

Nine of the 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates are led by Republicans. The exception is Wisconsin whose Supreme Court last May invalidated Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’s lockdown. The unemployment rate in Wisconsin is 3.9%—the same as Indiana—compared to 7.1% in Illinois whose Gov. J.B. Pritzker has been slow to reopen.

This chart shows the highest and lowest state unemployment rates:

Of course, blue-state governors who imposed long and stringent shutdowns would say that they did so for reasons of public health. Harsh shutdowns, they may argue, were necessary to slow the spread of the Wuhan virus.

But there is no evidence of any such positive effect. This has been shown over and over in a variety of ways, but let’s add one more. I added up the coronavirus deaths per 100,000 of population, according to the CDC, for the ten states in the Journal’s chart with the highest unemployment rates, and averaged them. I found that the ten states with highest unemployment averaged 202.6 deaths per 100,000. I then did the same thing for the ten states (all but Wisconsin with Republican governors) with the lowest unemployment. Their average deaths per 100,000 was much lower, at 134.5.

PAUL ADDS: ….

A measurement of lockdowns’ adverse effects on unemployment would require a more refined analysis. For example, it seems clear that Hawaii is experiencing the nation’s highest unemployment rate not primarily because it shut down or because it has a Democratic governor, but because it relies so heavily on tourism, and people didn’t want to fly to Hawaii, or couldn’t, during a pandemic (shutdown or not).

….

It’s more probative to compare Minnesota and the Dakotas. Deaths per one million people in Minnesota, where the governor imposed a lockdown, are 1,329. In South Dakota and North Dakota, which did not lock down, deaths per one million are 2,272 and 1,984, respectively (according to numbers reported in Worldometer).

We also know that Sweden, which did not lock down, had vastly more deaths per capita than Norway and Denmark, which did. According to numbers reported in Worldometer, Sweden had 1,419 deaths per one million, compared to 433 in Denmark and only 143 in Norway .

….

JOHN responds: I disagree. Paul doesn’t comment on the Minnesota-Wisconsin comparison, which is as close to apples-to-apples as we are going to get. Minnesota locked down drastically, Wisconsin didn’t, and the coronavirus deaths were identical. As for the Dakotas, North Dakota did lock down, unlike South Dakota, and their death totals are virtually the same.

As I wrote here, an obvious variable is what percentage of a state’s population, pre-covid, was in nursing homes. That percentage varies surprisingly widely from state to state. I looked at the Upper Midwestern states in my post, and found that nursing home population went a long way toward explaining covid death rates. There were many more people in nursing homes, per capita, in Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota than in Minnesota and Wisconsin before the epidemic began. I also looked at nursing home populations in various states around the country and found similar correlations.

So I continue to believe that there is no sound empirical basis for thinking that lockdowns, or the severity of lockdowns, made a material difference in covid results.

Source: Shutdowns Were a Disaster [with comment by Paul]

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Removing The Bedrock Of Liberalism: What the “Critical Race Theory” debate is really about

As the origins of our current moral panic about “white supremacy” become more widely debated, we have an obvious problem: how to define the term “Critical Race Theory.” This was never going to be easy, since so much of the academic discourse behind the term is deliberately impenetrable, as it tries to disrupt and dismantle the Western concept of discourse itself. The sheer volume of jargon words, and their mutual relationships, along with the usual internal bitter controversies, all serve to sow confusion. . . .

In his forthcoming book, “The Constitution of Knowledge,” Jonathan Rauch lays out some core principles that liberal societies rely upon. These are not optional if liberal society is to survive. And they are not easy, which is why we have created many institutions and practices to keep them alive. Rauch lists some of them: fallibilism, the belief that anyone, especially you, can always be wrong; objectivity, a rejection of any theory that cannot be proven or disproven by reality; accountability, the openness to conceding and correcting error; and pluralism, the maintenance of intellectual diversity so we maximize our chances of finding the truth.

The only human civilization that has ever depended on these principles is the modern West since the Enlightenment. That’s a few hundred years as opposed to 200,000 or so of Homo sapiens’ history, when tribalism, creedalism, warfare, theocracy or totalitarianism reigned. . . .

My central problem with critical theory is that it takes precise aim at these very core principles and rejects them. By rejecting them, in the otherwise noble cause of helping the marginalized, it is a very seductive and potent threat to liberal civilization.

It’s not in a noble cause. It just pretends to be. It is in fact about gaining and retaining power through the deliberate employment of bigotry.

Source: ANDREW SULLIVAN: Removing The Bedrock Of Liberalism

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Answers to 12 Bad Anti-Free Speech Arguments

Assertion: Free speech was created under the false notion that words and violence are distinct, but we now know that certain speech is more akin to violence.

Answer: Speech equals violence isn’t a new idea. It’s a very old—and very bad—idea.

On campus, I often run into people—not only students, but professors—who seem to think they’re the first to notice that the speech/violence distinction is a social construct. They conclude that this means it’s an arbitrary distinction—and that, since it’s arbitrary, the line can be put where they please. (Conveniently, they draw the line based on their personal views: if it’s speech that they happen to hate, then it just might be violence.)

Ironically, the whole point of freedom of speech, from its beginning, has been to enable people to sort things out without resorting to violence.

….

Assertion: Free speech rests on the faulty notion that words are harmless.

Answer: No, it doesn’t. If free speech was not powerful there would be no need either to protect it OR to ban it. It’s not surprising that free speech can be harsh, since it’s meant as a replacement for actual violence!

Historically, freedom of speech has been justified as part of a system for resolving disputes without resort to actual violence. Acceptance of freedom of speech is a way to live with genuine conflict among points of view (which has always existed) without resorting to coercive force.

….

Assertion: Free speech is the tool of the powerful, not the powerless.

Answer: The powerful do well under virtually any system of government. They’re not the ones who need freedom of speech. Its purpose is precisely to protect minority opinions and those who are unpopular with powerful people.

For most of history, the rich and powerful were protected by their wealth and power. Then, when democracies first emerged, the majority set the laws, and, because of that, their majority positions were protected by law. You only need a separate concept of freedom of speech or a law like the First Amendment to protect people, ideas and arguments that are not already otherwise protected by the right to vote or some other power.

The ones who enforce the rules, are, by definition, powerful. In a country with strong protections for freedom of speech, the powerful are barred from using the legal system to attack the powerless for their speech. If you empower the government to censor, you are giving the powerful more power.

….

Assertion: The right to free speech means the government can’t arrest you for what you say; it still leaves other people free to kick you out.

Answer: No, the popular xkcd cartoon below is wrong. The First Amendment limits what the government can do, but freedom of speech is something much bigger than that.

This cartoon is often used to dismiss free speech arguments, but it is wrong: it not only confuses First Amendment law with freedom of speech, it doesn’t even get the First Amendment right.

The concept of freedom of speech is a bigger, older and more expansive idea than its particular application in the First Amendment. A belief in the importance of freedom of speech is what inspired the First Amendment; it’s what gave the First Amendment meaning, and what sustains it in the law. But a strong cultural commitment to freedom of speech is what maintains its practice in our institutions—from higher education, to reality TV, to pluralistic democracy itself. Freedom of speech includes small l liberal values that were once expressed in common American idioms like to each his owneveryone’s entitled to their opinion and it’s a free country. These cultural values appear in legal opinions too; as Justice Robert H. Jackson noted in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, “Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.”

While the United States Constitution limits only governmental behaviour on its face, its application sometimes requires the government to protect you from being censored by other citizens. For example, the government has a duty to protect you from being attacked by a hostile mob that doesn’t like your ideas or having your public speech disrupted by a heckler’s veto.

The First Amendment also bars government officials from punishing your speech in many ways that don’t rise to the level of arresting you. To give just one example, since administrators at state colleges are government actors, they can’t tear your flyer from a public message board because they don’t like what it says.

A belief in free speech means you should be slow to label someone as utterly dismissible for their opinions. Of course you can kick an asshole out of your own house, but that’s very different from kicking a person out of an open society or a public forum. The xkcd cartoon is often used to let people off the hook from practicing the small d democratic value of listening.

Assertion: But you can’t shout fire! in a crowded theatre.

Answer: Anyone who says “you can’t shout fire! in a crowded theatre” is showing that they don’t know much about the principles of free speech, or free speech law—or history. 

This old canard, a favourite reference of censorship apologists, needs to be retired. It’s repeatedly and inappropriately used to justify speech limitations. People have been using this cliché as if it had some legal meaning, while First Amendment lawyers roll their eyes and point out that it is, in fact, as Alan Dershowitz puts it, “a caricature of logical argumentation.” Ken White has already penned a brilliant and thorough takedown of this misconception. Please read it before proclaiming that your least favourite language is analogous to shouting fire in a crowded theatre.

The phrase is a misquotation of an analogy made in 1919 Supreme Court opinion that upheld the imprisonment of three people—a newspaper editor, a pamphlet publisher and a public speaker—who argued that military conscription was wrong. The court said that anti-war speech in wartime is like “falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic,” and it justified the ban with a dubious analogy to the longstanding principle that the First Amendment doesn’t protect speech that incites people to physical violence. But the Supreme Court abandoned the logic of that case more than 50 years ago. That this trope originated as a justification for what has long since been deemed unconstitutional censorship reveals how useless it is as a measure of the limitations of rights. And yet, the crowded theatre cliché endures, as if it were some venerable legal principle.

Oh, and notice that the court’s objection was only to “falsely shouting fire!”: if there is, in fact, a fire in a crowded theatre, please let everyone know.

Assertion: The arguments for freedom of speech are outdated.

Answer: John Stuart Mill’s central arguments in On Liberty remain undefeated, including one of his strongest arguments in favour of freedom of speech—Mill’s trident—of which I have never heard a persuasive refutation.

Mill’s trident holds that, for any given belief, there are three options:

  1. You are wrong, in which case freedom of speech is essential to allow people to correct you.
  2. You are partially correct, in which case you need free speech and contrary viewpoints to help you get a more precise understanding of what the truth really is.
  3. You are 100% correct. In this unlikely event, you still need people to argue with you, to try to contradict you, and to try to prove you wrong. Why? Because if you never have to defend your points of view, there is a very good chance you don’t really understand them, and that you hold them the same way you would hold a prejudice or superstition. It’s only through arguing with contrary viewpoints that you come to understand why what you believe is true.

Assertion: Hate speech laws are important for reducing intolerance, even if there may be some examples of abuse.

Answer: Since the widespread passage of hate speech codes in Europe, religious and ethnic intolerance there has gone up. During the same period, ethnic and religious tolerance has improved in the United States.

At least a dozen Western European countries have hate speech laws, many of which run counter to their legal or historical commitments to free speech. But even though those laws have been on the books for years, by most measures Western Europe is less tolerant than the United States.

….

Source: NEWS YOU CAN USE: Answers to 12 Bad Anti-Free Speech Arguments: Featuring That XKCD Cartoon Everyon…

‘Hero Pay’ for Grocery Workers Is Terrible for Grocery Workers

“Hero pay” laws, which require big wage increases for grocery store workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, are sweeping the West Coast. Store closures, unemployment, and lawsuits have followed in their wake.

The first of these laws, passed in late January by the Long Beach, California, City Council, mandated that grocery workers at large stores get a $4-an-hour pay raise for the duration of the pandemic. By early February, Kroger announced it was shutting down two stores in Long Beach.

The locations had already been underperforming, the company said, but the new pay hike meant they were now unsustainable. It was the same story in Seattle and Los Angeles: In response to “hero pay” laws, Kroger said it would close three stores in each city.

….

Even with record pandemic profits, grocery stores operate on very slim margins. Big, sudden increases in expenses have to be absorbed somewhere. Those stores with the least room to make up added costs are the most at risk of being shuttered.

Most supermarkets, of course, will survive, likely through a combination of price hikes, layoffs, and employee hour reductions. These consequences are a compressed version of what we’d expect from the much-discussed idea of raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour: pay raises for many workers, job losses for others, and higher prices and fewer options for consumers. Unlike with a minimum wage increase, however, the costs of “hero pay” laws are obvious, immediate, and visible to everyone.

Source: ‘Hero Pay’ for Grocery Workers Is Terrible for Grocery Workers

COVID and the lab: one of the most consistent things about Trump has been…

…that the vast majority of the things he claimed – and which the press, the left, and the Democrats (but I repeat myself) screamed were preposterous – have turned out to be true.

For example, here’s an interesting tweet to look back on, from over a year ago:

President Trump contradicts the US intel community by claiming he’s seen evidence that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab cnn.it/3d7KSuC

The responses are to the effect of “What a liar!” and “What an idiot.”

….

Fast forward to now:

….

Not man-made or modified. The science was settled. Anyone who said otherwise was a wild conspiracy theorist.

Yep. At PolitiFact’s event, advertised as “four days of forward-thinking conversation about the role of facts in our lives,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said he’s not convinced that the virus developed naturally and that “we should continue to investigate what went on in China.”…

Fauci’s comments – given just a few hours after his Senate testimony – were in response to a question from PolitiFact’s Katie Sanders, who asked:

“There’s a lot of cloudiness around the origins of COVID-19 still, so I wanted to ask, are you still confident that it developed naturally?”

Displaying a level of intellectual curiosity heretofore unseen in him by the American public, Fauci replied:

“No, actually. I am not convinced about that. I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened.”

Source: COVID and the lab: one of the most consistent things about Trump has been…

Drag Queens And Legos: Normalizing Abnormality

If I recall correctly, in Brave New World, two of the essential curricula for grade school age children were “erotic games” and desensitization to death.
Huxley probably did not intend his book as a how-to manual.

Stately McDaniel Manor

Not terribly long ago, when Normal Americans would sound the alarm that the LGBTQWERTY “movement” was trying to recruit children, LGBTQWERTY “activists” would piously and angrily, cry such outlandish assertions were bigotry and hate!  Why, even trying to impute such evil motives to consenting adults who only want to be allowed to love those they please was absolutely un-American!  Riiiiight.

View original post 1,747 more words

EUGENE VOLOKH: Race and Violent Crime….

An article by a criminal law professor Thursday in the Columbus Dispatch included this assertion:

The reality is that Black-on-Black crime is a myth, and that Black and white people routinely commit crimes at similar rates, but Black people are overwhelmingly targeted for arrest.

Yet I think this is not the reality, at least as to violent crimes of the sort that are usually labeled “black-on-black” when committed by black criminals against black victims. (Blacks and whites do seem to commit drug possession and drug distribution crimes at relatively similar rates, but in this post I focus on violent crimes.) As best we can tell,

  • blacks appear to commit violent crimes at a substantially higher rate per capita than do whites;
  • there seems to be little aggregate disparity between the rate at which blacks commit violent crimes (especially when one focuses on crimes where the victims say they reported the crimes to the police) and the rate at which blacks are arrested for crimes; and
  • the black-on-black crime rate is especially high.

Of course, it’s always hard to measure what the actual crime rate is for any group (whether for purposes of claiming that the rates are similar or that they are different). Still, the most reliable data, to my knowledge, is generally the National Crime Victimization Survey, and the U.S. Justice Department Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that are based on that survey. Indeed, the link in the quoted sentence from the article goes to a source that relies on such data.

Because the NCVS surveys a large group of people about their experiences with crime victimization, it is not based on what is reported to the police and what the police do with it. (The Uniform Crime Reports is based on data from police departments, and is thus generally a less reliable measure of actual crime.) Naturally, there are possible sources of bias in victim reports. But the NCVS seems to be the best data we have, and I know of no better source that yields other results. (If you do know, please let me know.)

Here, then, is the data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Race and Ethnicity of Violent Crime Offenders and Arrestees, 2018, with regard to “rape/sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault“:

….

Blacks, which here means non-Hispanic blacks, were 12.5% of the U.S. population, and non-Hispanic whites were 60.4%. It thus appears from this data that the black per capita violent crime rate is roughly 2.3 to 2.8 times the rate for the country as a whole, while the white per capita violent crime rate is roughly 0.7 to 0.9 times the rate for the country as a whole.

It also appears that the arrest rates for violent crime are roughly comparable to the rates of offending, especially if one takes into account those offenses reported to the police (which is a choice of the victims, not of police departments). And the great bulk of such violent crime is intraracial.

The disparity is even more striking for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, which the NCVS doesn’t measure (since the crime victim can’t respond to the survey), and which thus relies on the police department reports in the UCR…

Source: EUGENE VOLOKH: Race and Violent Crime….